Ottawa — With time running out to find survivors of Monday’s devastating earthquake in Syria and Turkey, Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) has launched an emergency campaign to shelter survivors and provide bedding, food, medicines, nursing formula, diapers and clothing to more than 2,000 families for three months in northern Syria.

“This is a preliminary response focused on the work of our partners on the ground who have come to us, asking for our prayers and support,” said CNEWA’s president, Msgr. Peter I. Vaccari.

“Although our partners such as the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary have already opened up their doors to receive families who have lost everything, survivors are still processing the shock of the earthquake, searching through the rubble and assisting in rescue efforts,” said CNEWA’s regional director in Beirut, Michel Constantin, whose team manages emergency programs throughout the region. “There is a general state of panic, exacerbated by the harsh weather, complicating rescue efforts and the capacity to collect and assess data and plan accordingly.”

CNEWA’s preliminary aid will include helping the Blue Marist Brothers who are sheltering up to 1,000 families in Aleppo, collaborating with the Franciscan Friars and Salesian Fathers.

“The situation is tragic,” said Brother Georges Sabe, a member of the Blue Marists. "We have opened our convent doors to hundreds of families who have lost their houses, and their number is increasing by the hour. We are receiving the elderly, children and women who are now in urgent need of food, clothes, medications and, most of all, comfort and warmth in this harsh winter.”

CNEWA’s efforts will also support the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, which already supports more than 850 families in the Aleppo region devastated by civil war through the local churches’ vast network of parishes and schools. CNEWA will provide St. Vincent de Paul staff and volunteers with mattresses, pillows, blankets and food, water and medicines. Milk, nursing formula and diapers will also be provided.

In the Syrian city of Hama, about 153 miles from the epicenter of the earthquake, CNEWA will be supporting three emergency shelters for more than 150 families who have lost their homes. CNEWA will provide bedding, kitchen utensils, food and medicines.

“We lived and survived the long years of war but never experienced this kind of fear,” said Bishop Abdo Abrash of the Melkite Greek Catholic Eparchy of Homs, Hama and Yabroud, which is running the shelters. “It is true misery… there is a lack of first aid equipment to tend to the survivors.”

“While the situation on the ground is chaotic, this is a critical moment to help heal those who have survived – those who, as one of our partners told me, saw death,” reported Constantin.

“We join our CNEWA family in asking for the prayerful support of all Canadians,” said Dr. Adriana Bara, National Director for CNEWA in Canada. “Please be generous in this emergency campaign. Your support helps us offer life-giving support to victims and will give those affected the ability to rebuild their lives.”

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